Wood Duck Nest Sites in an Old-growth Longleaf Pine Forest

We determined the density and characteristics of natural cavities suitable for wood duck (Aix sponsa) nest sites in an old-growth longleaf pine (Pinus palustris) forest in Thomas County, Georgia, in 1991 and 1992. Of 17 suitable cavities found on the 72-ha study area, 6 had been recently occupied by nesting wood ducks. Although this density (0.24 per ha) was low compared to northern hardwood forests, it was similar to the densities reported in Mississippi bottomland hardwoods and greater than the density reported for bald cypress (Taxodium distichum) and tupelo gum (Nyssa aquatica) stands in the southeastern United States. The extensive distribution of this forest type before logging in the early part of this century suggests that longleaf pine forests could have once been an important source of wood duck nest sites. Silviculture favoring or maintaining an old-growth component of these forests would benefit wood ducks and other cavity nesters and lead to a more diverse biotic community.

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